After running my first race in five months last week at the Northern Bikatorn Full Moon Mini Marathon, just like buses in Glasgow, it didn’t take long for the second one to come along. This week’s race was at the more conventional start time of 6am, rather than 6:30pm last week, and I awoke at 3:50am to give myself enough time to eat some breakfast and get ready before jumping on my motorbike and heading 20k south, along the moat and around the old city before joining the 108 road which took me all the way to Hang Dong School. Fortunately, my friend Mark Barron lives in the area and had picked up my race Bib the day before.
I parked the motorbike just before they closed the parking lot and gave Mark a quick call and arranged to meet him at the Start Line. He wasn’t too difficult to spot, as like most ‘farangs’ he’s taller than the average Thai, even more so today as the numbers included hundreds of school pupils who would be running or walking the 5.25k ‘fun run’.
Bib secured, I changed out of my track suit and got ready for the race. A quick pit stop and I heard the call of ‘Khun Ian’ from my Thai racing nemesis Udon Stritip. I got my excuses in early, pointing out that my racing wasn’t up to last year’s standard and that I would be running ‘cha’, before he had the opportunity to tell me that, as he was doing a Mini Marathon on Sunday morning, he had plumped for the ‘fun run’ today.
I lined up under the falling inflatable Start/Finish point and used my height to keep the rubber contraption off of the heads of the young runners amassed around me.
After the various speeches, we set off out of the school gate and turned left onto route 108. The road was nice and quiet as we ran south for one kilometre before turning left into semi-rural roads of North Chiang Mai University playing fields for the next 2k. After that it was back onto the 108 and continuing south. I’d had a look at the route prior to the race, so I had a vague idea of where we were, although I’d never been in this part of Chiang Mai before. By now the race had settled down and although the field was now sparse there were always a couple of runners in front of me that could help drag me round.
At the 5k point, we turned left off of the main road and back onto the semi-rural roads. The course was relatively flat but there were quite a few turns which made it interesting but not particularly fast as we weaved our way through Ban San Pa Sak. I could see four runners in front, one woman, then two men, running side by side, and in front of them a man in a turquoise vest.
I wasn’t bothered about my time but I wanted to place as far up the field as possible. I caught the woman at 7k and then focussed on closing the gap on the next two. However at about 8.5k one of the two pulled up and I soon passed him. Just after 9k, I could see the police directing the turquoise runner to the road on the left and I couldn’t believe it as the next runner, dressed in white, kept running straight. ‘He’s lost it’ I thought to myself, he soon realised the error of his ways and turned left. He hadn’t gone far, just a few metres but I knew then that he was catchable and it wasn’t too long until I caught him. Turquoise vest was increasing his lead and I was just about managing to keep him in sight when we reached the 10k point. We were still on the rural roads and I knew that we had to re-join the 108 at some point before making it back into the school. The actual distance of some of the races here can be a bit of a lottery so I just kept to my task and continued to slightly increase the pace. This was easier said than done, as not only was I tired but we had now caught up with the walkers of the ‘fun run’, some of which were walking five-abreast. I had to manoeuvre through this sea of school children all adorned in the race running vest whilst keeping focus on the turquoise vest up front.
When we re-joined Route 108 the traffic facing us had grown significantly and there wasn’t much room for passing the walkers but thankfully it didn’t last long and we soon turned right and into the school. The fun runners drifted left towards their Finish Line and I made a mad dash to the empty line on the right. The familiar sound of ‘hok sip, hok sip’ rang out loud as I crossed the line knowing that I had finished in the top five of the MV60 runners. I crossed the line with Garmin indicating that the course was 10.66k, not too far off the 10.5k it was meant to be.
Although I was initially disappointed to have placed second rather than first, the winner, Sawing Chaimongkol had been that far ahead of me that I hadn’t even seen him. I felt that I had done as well as I could have, I had run faster than last week and on a slower course, so progress continues to be made. I can’t ask for much more than that.
It was great to see so many runners and to make a few new friends as we waited for the prize giving ceremony. There was an obscene amount of free food to be had but I’m never that hungry immediately after a race and settled for a few drinks and some fruit. The trophy was unusual in that it was shaped in traditional Lanna style and made from the red clay of a local village. A nice addition to the collection.